Woman, 84, loses arm in alligator attack in Leesburg

Victim airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center

Published On: Sep 26 2012 08:53:40 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 27 2012 11:47:30 AM EDT
gator (4)
LEESBURG, Fla. -

An elderly woman's arm was severed Wednesday morning in an alligator attack described by Leesburg fire officials as "gruesome."

PHOTOS:  Woman attacked by alligator in Leesburg

AUDIO: 911 call 1 | 2 (WARNING, Content may be graphic)

Carol Hough, 84, was attacked before 7 a.m. in the Helena Run Canal near Hubbard Street at the Cypress Creek Mobile Home Park off U.S. Highway 27 between Lake Harris and Lake Denham, law enforcement officials said.

Lake County sheriff's deputies said Hough was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center. She was listed in stable condition.

"Initially, we were trying to put a rush on this because we thought we could get and save the arm, but it's past that point now," said Joy Hill, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman, who added that it's not known why Hough was in the canal.

Authorities said the gator had no body parts in its belly, but they are certain they have the right gator.

Lake County sheriff's officials said neighbor Delmas Zickefoose noticed Hough in the canal with a "significant arm injury" and jumped in to rescue her, but could not lift her out of the water.  He kept Hough's head above water until authorities arrived, according to sheriff's officials.

"The only thing she had to say was, 'Where's Bob? Where's Bob? And that's her deceased husband who passed away two to three years ago,'" Zickefoose said.

Zickefoose told Local 6 News that Hough's right arm was severed near the bicep.  Wildlife officials said a sweater and part of Hough's arm were recovered from the canal.

"I helped her get her back over to my dock and just held her there, realizing at that point her arm was gone," Zickefoose said. "Her arm was gone completely."

A FWC officer investigating the incident fired two shots at an alligator, striking it once. FWC captured a gator Wednesday afternoon, conducted a necropsy and found that it was the same gator that attacked Hough based on its size and it's lack of fear for humans.

In 2003, a 12-year-old boy was attacked and killed by a 10-foot alligator along the Dead River, which is on the opposite side of Lake Harris in Lake County.

Leesburg is located about 45 miles northwest of Orlando.

Experts tell Local 6 the time of year influences alligator's attitude.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.